Desert island movies
Inspired by Jim Emerson and Matt Zoller Seitz, I’ve done some thinking which ten movies I’d want with me on a desert island, plus one short and one season of a t.v. series. “Part of the fun of this exercise,” MZS writes, “is figuring out what you think you can watch over and over, and what you can live without.” Not just favorite films, but films that can stand up to repeated viewing (meaning you won’t grow tired of them) and movies you can watch in solitude, since you’ll be all alone on the island.
My first thought is that I wouldn’t want movies that made me depressed or put me in a rotten mood. So nothing overly dramatic or violent. I’d probably want movies that inspire happiness, or at least peaceful contemplation. Off the top of my head I can name three films that meet this emotional requirement: “Wings of Desire”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Shawshank Redemption”.
I’d also take “2001: A Space Odyssey” with me. I’d want something around that reminds me of the enormity of the world/universe. And I always find some new detail of marvel at every time I watch it. And despite having been made nearly a half-century ago, the special effects to not appear dated any more than a recent CGI blockbuster. “2001” is truly a film that never “gets old”.
Despite the restriction MZS placed on combining multiple films into one selection, I’m going to mash “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II” into one pick. Technically I could choose “The Godfather 1902-1959: The Complete Epic” as this is the version I believe I rented from Blockbuster back in high school. There is also “The Godfather Trilogy: 1901-1980” but this includes the third film in the series and I don’t remember seeing that one in the VHS copy I rented.
Since I would miss my friends, I’d take “Sideways” with me. A number of my friends’ crazy personality traits can be found in the two lead characters.
I’ve seen “UHF” a thousand times since I was 9 years old. That’s not meant as hyperbole… I may have seen it more times than that. The movie goes great in the background when I’m writing or reading or washing dishes or doing whatever around the apartment. I can almost recite the dialogue word-for-word. So it may seem strange to take along a movie I know by heart, but I can’t imagine going more than a few months without it.
Ebert recently wrote: “Sometimes the way you consider a film depends on when and why you saw it, and what it meant to you at that time.” I made a deep connection to “Lost in Translation” when I saw it during my semester of student teaching in the fall of 2003. The connection was one I have never made with a movie before or since. It was only possible because of the timing of the film’s release. Bill Murray’s character reflected my life at that moment, and I felt as though I was watching myself on the screen. Had the film been released in any other year, I probably would still have enjoyed it, but would not care so passionately for it as I do.
It’s not the most uplifting film, but “No Country for Old Men” is the best movie I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. It’s filmmaking perfection. It’s captivating. It goes on the list.
I would want to take “The Evil Dead”. No need to remind me it’s a horror movie loaded with blood & guts. I haven’t forgotten. But it’s just so damn fun to watch. I couldn’t imagine going the rest of my life without seeing it again.
I’ll go with those ten. I’ve made up my mind for today. Presented with the same challenge tomorrow or any other day and I’d likely replace at least a few of these films with other possibilities: “The Blues Brothers”, “Dr. Strangelove”, “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back”, “The Rules of Attraction”, “My Own Private Idaho”, “Shaun of the Dead”, “Aguirre, The Wrath of God”, “Ghost World”, “Waking Life”, “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Whitnail and I”…
For the short, no contest: “Why Man Creates”, with Disney’s “The Line and the Dot: A Romance in Lower Mathematics” as a worthy runner-up.
For the single-season t.v. series I’m going with season 2 of “The X-Files”. It’s really a tossup between seasons 2 and 3, but I love the cliffhanger in the season 2 finale. I couldn’t decide which of the first four seasons of “The West Wing” would be a good alternative. And then there’s the single (only) season of “Freaks and Geeks”… but I’m sticking with Mulder and Scully.
I’d love to know what others would select, so feel free to share your ten (+ 1 + 1) choices in the comments.